Egypt hosts secret talks on who will run Gaza after war

The plan is to install independent, non-political administrators to oversee rebuilding of shattered strip after Hamas is defeated


Street scene in Rafah, on the border between Gaza and Egypt (Photo by Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images)

Inside the plush Egyptian Intelligence headquarters in Nasr City, a suburb of Cairo, a new way of ruling the Gaza Strip is being

With Egypt playing a facilitating role, it involves
replacing the previous 16 years of Hamas rule with an administration of independent Gazans who have no loyalty to Hamas, Islamic Jihad or Fatah — or, framed differently, an administration of independents and technocrats.
Details of the discussions are considered extremely confidential. But one Palestinian source, who declined to be named, told the JC about the scheme, which bypasses and in effect rejects the Russian-mediated talks a week ago held in Moscow between Palestinian Authority (PA) representatives and Hamas senior officials.
That meeting issued a declaration that “resistance” would continue under a new government. It did not spell out whether this would involve violent confrontations with Israel.

US President Joe Biden has spoken of aiming to get a “revitalised” PA to run Gaza. However the discussions in Cairo
with independents would seem to circumvent reinserting the PA’s control. It has been widely condemned internationally for corruption and for its refusal to condemn the October 7 attacks, as well as for its support for prisoners, including those who committed violent crimes against Israelis. Fatah controls
the PA, which is itself part of the PLO.
The technocrat administration plan, the JC was told, would involve the running of all current ministries, but only to the extent of restoring stability and rebuilding the devastated Strip, in coordination with international donors from Arab and Western countries. It would operate separately from whatever security arrangements are made to control internal violence and prevent clashes between any remaining gunmen in Gaza and Israeli forces.
“We reject being ‘planted’ or imposed in Gaza by Israel, and we
cannot be seen as being in any way in cahoots with the Israelis,” said a source, “but we assume they would find the plan acceptable.”
He added: “We know that the majority of Palestinians inside
Gaza are contemptuous of Hamas and Fatah, and would support the removal of both groups from power.”

Fatah lost armed control of the Gaza Strip in four days of bloody fighting against Hamas in 2007.
Its popularity crumbling after years of corrupt and ineffective rule over Gaza, Fatah had lost an election for the Palestinian parliament in Gaza and the West Bank the year before. According to the scenario envisaged by the Oslo Accords and its security provisions, security control was supposed, nevertheless, to have remained with forces loyal to Mahmoud
Abbas, so its overthrow in Gaza was illegal.
Most of the independents gathered in Cairo were able to leave Gaza via the Rafah crossing despite an Egyptian near-blockade.

They say Palestinians are angered by the consequences of the Hamas invasion of Israel on October 7, aware that in effect Hamas gave Israel the “green light” to inflict death and destruction in response.
Gazans are also livid with Israel, say the potential new administrators, but mainly realise that Hamas has brought this
disaster upon the locals, and are bitterly aware that the Hamas
leadership is either ensconced in luxury hotels in Qatar and Turkey, or is sheltering in Gaza’s tunnels while the populace above ground continues to suffer.
The independents point out that there have been under-publicised protests in the streets, and that some social media messages haverevealed Gazans’ disdain for Hamas.
Meanwhile, Egypt also has facilitated discussions
between Israel and local clan leaders inside Gaza, who may help run some of the reconstruction and provide security to maintain at least a modicum of law and order, other sources told the JC.
Negotiations mediated in Cairo last week ended without agreement on a hostages-for-prisoners exchange, a ceasefire or a pause in the fighting.
Egyptian forces in the region around the Rafah crosing point between Gaza and Egypt have been shoring up the border fences, and have fired warning shots at the few Gazans who have waded into the Mediterranean to try to skirt around large concrete blocks to reach the Egyptian-controlled beach. Very few people are being admitted through the Rafah crossing point.
While some goods- and people-smuggling tunnels remain operational, most of the larger tunnels dug between Rafah and the Egyptian side were sealed or flooded by the Egyptian security services some years ago.
A Cairo-based news outlet, Mada Masr, was suspended for six months after running a report on what it said were plans to accommodate Gaza’s Palestinians in Sinai.
Egypt's official reason for not admitting many refugees was laid out in stark terms by its authoritarian leader Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, the former armed forces commander who took power in a bloody suppression of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in 2013.
“We are prepared to sacrifice millions of lives to ensure that no one encroaches upon our territory,” Egypt’s prime minister Mostafa Madbouly said soon after the Israeli invasion of Gaza began. And President Sisi was equally strident.
The major motivating factor for keeping Palestinians out of
Egypt goes back to Sisi's loathing of the Muslim Brotherhood, which founded Hamas in 1987. Sisi’s regime blames the Brotherhood, in cahoots with infiltrated Hamas fighters, for a major jailbreak during and after the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, and for various acts of sabotage and assassination inside Egypt.

Sisi’s predecessor as president, Mohamed Morsi, was one of several Brotherhood leaders arrested when Sisi seized power. Morsi died while in jail.
Limitations on Palestinians coming into Egypt have existed even when the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian control from 1948 to 1967. Those who were able to live in Egypt have at various times found access to work and to any state-subsidised housing and university education severely restricted.
Sisi considers that a mass influx of Gazans would be fraught with internal risks, possibly containing dissidents who would ally
themselves with the Muslim Brotherhood or stir up trouble against Israel.

He is eager to maintain stability in the Sinai, where lawless gangs and armed smugglers have engaged in numerous lethal clashes with Egyptian security forces over the last two decades.
As for the postwar future of the Palestinians, Sisi has
proposed the establishment of a demilitarised Palestinian state, with security supervised by Nato, UN or Arab or American peacekeeping forces “until we achieve security for both states”. He has acknowledged that current conditions make this only an eventual goal not an immediate outcome of the war.

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